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North Star

A Beacon of Positive Change

At ECMC Foundation, we are dedicated to systemic change to improve outcomes for underserved populations in postsecondary education. In 2024, we defined a new commitment to advance our work.

By 2040 equity gaps in postsecondary completion are eliminated, so that underserved learners have greater opportunity for social and economic mobility.

Eliminating Equity Gaps

America’s higher education system has long been considered the envy of the world. Still, for several decades researchers have identified significant disparities in postsecondary completion by race and ethnicity, geography, socioeconomic status and other factors, revealing that our higher education system is truly not built for all learners. Despite widespread recognition of these inequities, little progress has been made toward effectively addressing them. Higher education has made extraordinary strides in becoming more accessible, allowing more students from diverse backgrounds to enroll in college. While student demographics have changed, the institutions themselves are falling short of expectations, as more and more students leave postsecondary education before graduating.

Equality Is the Goal—and Equity is the Strategy

Our focus represents an unyielding commitment to equity and student-centered strategies to eliminate gaps in postsecondary completion. Equality is the goal, and equity is the strategy.

Some may define equity as helping all individuals reach the same starting line, yet we believe this is only part of the solution. Equitable enrollment―the starting line―is a long way from the finish line―graduation. More than forty million adults across the nation have enrolled in college, only to leave before completing their credential. We must support all students throughout every step of their postsecondary journey.

We are determined to create a future state in which young children who today are starting their educational journey will graduate as the class of 2040 and do so at the same rate as their fellow Americans from all walks of life. This equity in completion must also apply to the millions of older adults who begin postsecondary education well into their 20s, 30s and beyond. We will know we have succeeded when by 2040, disparities in postsecondary completion by race and ethnicity, geography, income and other indicators are virtually indiscernible.

Driving Change, Transforming Outcomes

Our North Star answers the question “Why does ECMC Foundation do its work?” The Foundation’s mission and strategic framework remain unchanged and align with the North Star. We still aim to “improve higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation.” Using our strategic framework as our guide, ECMC Foundation funds projects that decrease barriers to postsecondary completion; build the capacity of organizations, institutions and systems; and transform the postsecondary ecosystem. The Foundation works toward systemic change in postsecondary education, especially for underserved learners. We aim to shift the conditions that hold a problem in place, rather than merely alleviate the symptoms of the problem. In higher education, this may mean changing policies, adapting practices, reallocating resources, building relationships, shifting dynamics and tackling biases to address the barriers impeding student success. Our approach is based on evidence and a progression of solutions matrix that drives broad adoption of innovations and reforms. Our initiatives, strategically responsive grantmaking and program-related investments all serve as vehicles to advance the North Star.

Watch the North Star webinar.